Boxing Day I came home, arms laden with heavy bags, and confess to my husband that I have maxed out our cards.
“All of them?” The Man asks doubtfully.
“Yes. Even the children's.”
“Good for you!” he grins and gives me a high five.
I confess, this is not the first time I’ve maxed out a library card. And the library card of anyone foolish enough to let me ‘hold on’ to theirs. I carry four cards, one for each member of our household, excluding felines. Each card has a limit of fifty items, a limit I am still a slightly irked about.
A few years ago, we could take out up to ninety-nine items on a card, but some bureaucratic joining up with other libraries and making everything consistent bullshit happened (I’m not sure what the help desk lady said, actually, when I demanded and explanation, I too busy being offended to listen to the probably reasonable answer) and all I knew is that forces beyond my control were tinkering with something I consider to be my personal bookland. It always irritates me when the powers that be remind me that I am not the Grandmaster Library Overlord.
But even when the limit was ninety-nine, I still maxed out the library cards regularly.
I am mostly not ashamed.
I suppose I had to think sort of feel a bit pathetic when I was standing there with forty-three books at home and another fifty-six checked out and put into bags, and one last book on the counter that I was trying to convince the clerk to make an exception on. Because book number one hundred seemed like the one I couldn’t actually live without. All the while, overheated two small children wrapped in full winter gear pulled on my arms, begging to please be released from the steaming hot library. I did start to feel like I might be overreaching slightly. Like my eyes are bigger than my brain. A book junkie? Could I have a problem?
No. The solution to having to prostrate myself to indifferent (disdainful?) library clerks was to make sure that I had my husband’s library card with me as well, and apply for a card for each of my two small, overdressed children. Without photo id, the cats’ need for paperbacks and books on tape was dismissed by the clerk. Also, nobody puts on their jackets and toques now until after the check out.
I could probably talk for hours on why I feel that I need to take home so many books at one time. But who has hours to chit chat when there is so much reading to be done? I can just summarize by saying that an unread book, no matter what genre or subject, looks like a kindred spirit. I just know that possibility, adventure, and the most amazing thing I will ever learn and will probably make my life a thousand times better is just inside those pages. It’s what I imagine lotto players feel like when they buy tickets to the next multi-million dollar draw. The answer to all my problems! All the things that could be! That is the seduction of new (borrowed) books.
And why wouldn’t I think that? Alright, I still have problems, but I have read some incredible books that have changed by life for the better. I have read some real stinkers too, but they never let down either. Badly written books make me feel connected with a person I have never met. The author of a book that readers do not like, or worst, feel indifferent too, is someone I can relate to. Don’t stress it author, I think. Lord knows I’ve done some dumb shit too.
So, unlike the most players of the lottery, my hopeful (temporary) three times a week acquisition of library books do not eventually disappoint. As long as I make the effort to open the cover, the book works. Not like Wi-Fi or furnaces or children, the books keep trucking along, delivering their wares as more or less promised on the sleeve or back cover. The only thing that bums me out about a book is when there is no author photo. I really like to know who wrote that particular stinker.